Solar Energy: A Brief Look Back

In the early 1970’s the United States was in the midst of an energy crisis. Massive oil shortages and high prices made it clear that alternative ideas for energy production were needed and solar power was a clear front runner. The origins of the solar cell in the United States date back to inventor Charles Fritz in the 1880’s, and the first attempts at harvesting solar energy for homes, to the late 1930’s. In 1974, the State of Florida put it’s name in the ring to become the host of the National Solar Energy Research Institute.

Site proposal for the National Solar Energy Research Institute. Claude Pepper Papers S. 301 B. 502 F. 4

With potential build sites in Miami and Cape Canaveral, the latter possessing the added benefit of proximity to NASA, the Florida Solar Energy Task Force, led by Robert Nabors and endorsed by Representative Pepper, felt confident. The state made it to the final rounds of the search before the final location of Golden, Colorado was settled upon, which would open in 1977. Around this same time however (1975), the Florida Solar Energy Center was established at the University of Central Florida. The Claude Pepper Papers contain a wealth of information on Florida’s efforts in the solar energy arena from the onset of the energy crisis, to the late 1980’s.

Carbon copy of correspondence between Claude Pepper and Robert L. Nabors regarding the Cape Canaveral proposed site for the National Solar Research Institute. Claude Pepper Papers S. 301 B. 502 F. 4

Earlier this year, “Tallahassee Solar II”, a new solar energy farm, began operating in Florida’s capitol city.  Located near the Tallahassee International Airport, it provides electricity for more than 9,500 homes in the Leon County area. With the steady gains that the State of Florida continues to make in the area of solar energy expansion, it gets closer to fully realizing its nickname, “the Sunshine State.”

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